Combining Solar and Wind Technology

There are many parts of the world where combining solar and wind technology makes sense. Such areas could include Northern and central Europe, much of the United States and Canada etc. – and areas that have a more or less annual equal mix of wind and sun; more sun in summer, more wind in winter. Combined systems offer great scope for a DIY solar and wind power approach to installation. Other areas where the combination makes some sense are tropical regions with constant ideal strength trade winds and lots of sunlight. In such regions this allows for a smaller system, producing more electricity at less cost.

solar and wind power

solar and wind power

In higher latitude regions with, for example those with a low level of winter sunlight, a home solar only system would need to remain connected to the grid or have a backup generator. Neither of these options reward the owner with the ‘feel good’ factor in that he or she has truly gone green and independent. The solar and wind technology combination therefore becomes very attractive to cover the low sunlight winter months; months that often tie in neatly by almost always having a good winter wind regime.

The DIY solar and wind power system layout is not complicated. An array of solar panels on one hand, and a wind turbine, or two, on the other consecutively or alternatively charge a bank of batteries, sized to accept the amount of charge available without excessive charge wastage, and provide the home with the electricity it requires, year round. Both power sources would have their own or a combined control system to protect the batteries from overcharge.

Batteries tend to last longer in these hybrid systems, since they are receiving a more regular charge year round, thus avoiding excessive discharge at times of low solar (or wind) gain, which would shorten the life of the batteries. This is one of the additional advantages of using solar and wind together.

That said, and with all the advantages of such a system for its benefits in appropriate regions, I would not however use solar at all in areas that get little sunlight year round, nor wind in arid regions such as the Sahara, that get an immense amount of sunlight year round. Mention of these regions brings to mind a serious consideration when it comes to wind turbines, especially DIY turbines, and that is the ingression of sand and grit into the turbine. In such and similar regions this factor has to be given serious consideration and the wind turbine should have more regular inspections.

The longer term maintenance of DIY solar and wind power combination systems is almost entirely devoted to the wind turbine(s) and to a lesser extent the batteries. As mentioned above the turbines with their hard working moving parts should be inspected at regular intervals for damage and severe wear and tear.

The batteries in such systems are receiving a year round regular charge, perhaps often close to overcharge when, for example the wind and sun are both providing optimum charge levels. Thus, your expensive deep-cycle lead acid batteries would need regular inspection to ensure electrolyte levels are as they should be. The charge control system for both solar and wind outputs should also be checked more regularly to ensure no fault has developed to endanger the batteries.

DIY solar and wind power systems can be hard workers and whilst they can do an excellent job, a closer eye does have to be kept on them, to ensure all is well!